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Veterans Crisis Line Badge

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Robert A. McDonald

Elizabeth Dole Foundation Hidden Heroes Campaign Launch
Washington, DC
September 27, 2016

When President Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address, the country had been washed in the blood of soldiers’ service and sacrifice. It was steeped in the sorrows of families who sacrificed along with them. So he gave our wounded Nation a vision for healing. He counseled, “Care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan . . . .”

That’s VA’s mission—caring for those who have “borne the battle,” and their families. But it’s not just a mission for VA. It’s a mission for the entire nation. And in the fullest sense, caring for Veterans means providing strong support to the heroic people doing the heavy lifting every day, our Veteran caregivers.

Supporting Veteran caregivers is supporting our Veterans. Their hard work is essential to helping wounded, ill, and injured Veterans recover more quickly. They’re making Veterans’ lives better with their skill, with their compassion, with their love. And their doing it with sacrifices of their own—their health, relationships, financial well-being, their education . . . . being a caregiver is their second sacrifice.

At VA, our Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers has supported more than 32,000 caregivers from the post 9/11 community. We serve tens of thousands more caregivers through respite, home based primary care, Veteran directed care, and with training, education, and peer support. But it’s going to take all of us, joining hands and working together, to fully embrace, empower, and support them.

Together, we’re going to help them build their skills and their confidence in the great work they do. We’re going to relieve some of the stress and strain that comes with being a Veteran caregiver. VA’s partnered with Coursera before to provide Veterans and military families free course certification. Today, VA’s expanding that Coursera partnership to include caregivers. Coursera’s going to help give caregivers more flexibility in completing coursework—based on their own schedule, their own needs, and the needs of their families.

Reliable, responsive, and convenient transportation is important to how Veterans experience the care they receive. But transportation needs aren’t limited to Veterans. Healthcare providers know caregivers play essential roles in Veterans’ care, so helping them with their travel just makes sense. To make it easier for caregivers to travel in support of the Veterans they’re helping, VA’s qualifying Uber and Lyft ridesharing programs as eligible options under our Veteran and caregivers beneficiary travel program.

Partnership and collaboration are fundamental to serving Veterans. That’s why VA’s partnered with respected organizations like the YMCA, the Elks, the PenFed Foundation, LinkedIn, Coursera, Google, Walgreens, academic institutions, and many more. It’s why VA collaborates with many world-class institutions like Johnson & Johnson, USAA, Starbucks, NASA, Kaiser Permanente, Hospital Corporation of America, Virginia Mason . . . and Amazon.

Let me tell you about what we’re doing with Amazon . . . tomorrow. I’ll tell you about our partnership with Amazon tomorrow at the Empowering Hidden Heroes Pathways to Innovation Summit. So stay tuned.

Here’s the point. Everyone can help. Organizations can contribute in their own ways. And we’re only limited by our imaginations. So let’s start dreaming. Let’s follow Senator Dole’s lead and raise the roof of public awareness and get Veteran caregivers—our five and a half million Hidden Heroes—into the national spotlight.

Thank you all for being here. President Lincoln would be proud of what we’re doing. I know I am.

God bless our Veterans, their caregivers, and all of you.