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Veterans Crisis Line Badge

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson

U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Hiring Our Heroes” Awards Gala
November 12, 2014

At VA, we’re reminded every day of the outsized contributions Veterans make to this great country. Caring for those who have “borne the battle” is our pride and privilege. It is the most noble and inspiring mission in government.

In the past three months—on our “Road to Veterans Day”—we set our sights on three key goals:

  • Rebuilding trust with Veterans and stakeholders;
  • Improving service delivery, focusing on Veteran outcomes;
  • And setting the course for long-term excellence and reform.

We’ve made progress on all three:

  • From June through September, we completed 19 million appointments, 1.2 million more than in the same four months last year.
  • We also authorized over seven million appointments for care in the community—a 47 percent increase over last year.
  • We have developed a “Blueprint for Excellence” to re-establish VA’s leadership in health care.
  • And we’ve begun a departmental reorganization called MyVA because Veterans should view us as an organization that belongs to them and provides quality care in the ways they need and want to be served.

Last week, we also began implementing the new “Veterans Choice Act.” Not only does it provide $5 billion to hire more medical staff and expand and update facilities, it also created the Veterans Choice Program, funded with $10 billion to purchase additional care in the community while building internal capability.

We have launched the Veterans Choice Program in phases to ensure those eligible for benefits under the program will have ready access to care. Veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility already have their Choice Cards, and many Veterans waiting more than 30 days for an appointment are already being contacted to discuss their option to receive care in the community.

The Veterans Choice Program, our Blueprint for Excellence, and our MyVA reorganization will go a long way toward promoting excellence VA-wide.

But to do our best for Veterans, we need public and private partners—especially when it comes to career transition. Employers need to understand the value of Veterans—what Veterans have experienced, what they’ve accomplished, and what they can accomplish in our businesses and communities.

Veterans need our support transitioning to the civilian workforce, translating their knowledge, skills, and abilities into something employers can understand, and finding employers savvy enough to value their experience and maturity.

That’s why collaborations like the First Lady’s “Joining Forces” initiative and the Chamber’s “Hiring Our Heroes” program are so important.

Hiring Our Heroes has produced some great tools to help Veterans find jobs—including a “Guide to Hiring Veterans,” which helps employers through the process of recruiting, onboarding, and retaining Veterans.

Earlier this year, the Chamber, Toyota, and Blue Star Families launched “Career Spark”—a first-of-its-kind, online tool exclusively for military spouses to help them build resumes and grow their careers. One of the best features of Career Spark is its ability to capture the volunteer experience of military spouses, which can be highly attractive to employers. We liked the tool so much we signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Chamber Foundation to use some of its data.

We have also collaborated with the Chamber in hosting on-base job summits for transitioning Servicemembers—most recently at Joint Base Lewis-McChord—and we look forward to hosting similar events in the future.

This generation of Veterans like Sgt. Dakota Meyer has shouldered the burden of our defense for more than a decade. They displayed extraordinary strength and resilience. They sacrificed personally for the greater good. They demonstrated remarkable perseverance in the face of adversity to protect the freedoms we, as Americans, enjoy daily. They worked with others—often very different from themselves—to accomplish great feats. They showed care and compassion for those in need, sometimes at the risk of their own lives. They lived by the values of duty, honor, and country, and in doing so earned our trust.

At a time when our country faces many challenges, can we imagine any situation where we don’t need more people who put service before self, who can bridge differences to accomplish great things, who will persevere even in the face of daunting obstacles, and who we can trust implicitly to choose the harder right rather than the easier wrong?

Help these men and women and their families become integral parts of our communities. It is the smart thing to do.

At a time when so many of these men and women are returning home after years of war and sacrifice, we can show our gratitude by supporting their transition. It is the right thing to do

Congratulations to tonight’s awardees for standing by our Veterans through the Chamber’s Hiring Our Heroes program.

Congratulations also to the Chamber and Capital One on not just reaching but shattering their goal of hiring 500,000 heroes. The commitment number alone is great, but the steps you’ve taken to follow up with these companies to track hires are especially impressive.

Thank you for all you do for Veterans and their families. Thanks also to everyone who has made this night so memorable. God bless you, and God bless this great Nation.