Remarks by Secretary Denis R. McDonough - Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs
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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Denis R. McDonough

VetsInTech Invasion in Silicon Valley National Conference 2021 (Virtual)
Washington, DC
April 17, 2021

Katherine [Webster, Founder VetsInTech], thanks for that kind introduction. More important, thanks to you and the entire VetsInTech team for your devotion to Veterans, servicemembers, and their families.

For nearly a decade, you’ve been helping marshal the innovative spirit of the tech industry, building a thriving ecosystem for Veterans and spouses—20 VetsInTech chapters across the country, from Seattle to Miami and Boston to San Diego. And today’s launch of the VetsInTech Academy is another giant step forward for all those you serve.

With VetsInTech Academy’s free training in cybersecurity and web development, in data science and AI, in machine learning, cloud computing and more, it’s a tremendous resource for all the Veterans you’re reaching. Whether Veterans are just starting their transition or looking to join the tech industry from another sector, the Academy is an open door to a world of opportunities.

And, like you’ve said, Katherine, a career in tech is about a lot more than coding. It’s about writing programs and program management, project management and financial management, human capital management and sales and marketing. There’s a wide range of needs perfectly suited for the leadership skills Veterans bring to the table—and that smart business leaders value the most.

To all you Vets and spouses joining the VetsInTech Invasion, let me tell you—when I think about everything you’ve done for this nation, I’m inspired. We live in peace and security today because of your sacrifices and the sacrifices of generations of Veterans before you. And as VA Secretary, my vision is about you designing and living the fulfilling, productive lives you want to live.

That means VA providing you world-class education benefits and opportunities. We’re expanding our transition, education, and employment programs—offering an array of economic development initiatives like personalized career planning, technology education opportunities, and STEM scholarships, among others.

And the GI Bill is a powerful economic-opportunity engine that synchs with VetsInTech’s three Es—Education, Employment, and Entrepreneurship. Since August 2009, we’ve provided Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to more than 2.3 million of you and your family members, to almost one million beneficiaries across all five GI Bill programs in Fiscal Year 2020 alone.

Our VET TEC Program and Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship can help secure careers in STEM and technology fields. In fact, nearly 5,000 of your fellow Veterans have been awarded STEM scholarships, and nearly 1,000 have found employment after completing a VET TEC program.

To build on VET TEC’s success, we’ve established the VET TEC Employer Consortium—a collaboration among training providers, employers, and VA that creates space for VET TEC students to make connections and prime them for success. We also expanded our partnership with the Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes, and we’re using their Resume Engine to help VET TEC graduates succeed with employers. That same tool can help you succeed with a wide array of VetsInTech employers, too.

And the American Rescue Plan’s new Veteran Rapid Retraining Program, which we call  VRAP, is providing retraining assistance if you aren’t already using other education benefits and lost a job because of the pandemic. It’s specifically designed for Veterans who need training for jobs in high demand occupations like in the technology sector. 

If you have that entrepreneurial spark, our Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization has a range of services to help you succeed—from small business development webinars to links with procurement leaders from VA, other government agencies, and across the wider industry.

And if you have a service-connected disability, Veteran Readiness and Employment Services are especially important. These and other VA resources can help you achieve your goals—whether that’s a degree or advanced occupational training in high demand fields like software programming, data sciences, and engineering.

So, if you haven’t yet reached out to VA as you’re charting your future, now’s the time. You may very well find the perfect companion to your VetsInTech experience. And while you’re looking ahead, we at VA are laser focused on a vision for the future defined by four fundamental principles—Advocacy, Access, Outcomes, and Excellence.

We intend to be the nation’s premier advocate for you and your families, for Veterans’ caregivers and survivors.  We intend to provide you timely access to the resources you’ve earned—from world-class health care to benefits to a final resting place that’s a lasting tribute to your selfless service. And we’re focusing on Veterans outcomes. Your outcomes will drive everything we do.

Like VetsInTech partners, VA’s data driven. Some of the Nation’s top data science and health informatics talent are busy launching our VA Data Strategy to manage and integrate our enormous data holdings. And we’re committed to working out the best ways to support development of Veterans’ data skills and hire from the Veteran community. And with multi-billion-dollar initiatives like our electronic health record modernization, we’re going to be relying more heavily on data than ever before so your outcomes are the best outcomes.

There’s a bright future for tech experts at VA. After you spend some time honing your skills in the industry, think about charting a path forward with us, serving your fellow Veterans. We need your kind of talent because we’re seeking excellence in all we do for Veterans.

And to get to there, we’re leveraging the strength and diversity that defines the Veteran population, that defines our VA workforce, and that defines our country. Diversity, equity, and inclusivity are fundamental to everything we’re doing.

So, reach out to VA for your benefits. Reach out for your services. And reach out for your career, too.

And I hope VetsInTech sponsors and partners will reach out, as well. Our Center for Strategic Partnerships is VA’s gateway to the private industry, helping drive innovation for Veterans. A host of companies help Veterans through donations, in-kind services, and free services. Think about joining us. And spread the word with industry partners to bring more and more Veterans on board.

I think we all agree—supporting Veterans is a national obligation, a national opportunity. President Biden called it one of our country’s most sacred obligations. And we need everyone’s help in fulfilling it.

Katherine, we’re so grateful for your help, for your visionary leadership, and everything you’re doing to fulfill that sacred obligation. And we’re grateful for everything VetsInTech sponsors and partners are doing, too.

God bless all of you. God bless our troops, our Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors. And may we always give them our very, very best.