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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis

Remarks for the Honorable Hilda L. Solis
"Putting Our Veterans Back to Work"
N.C. National Guard Joint Forces Command Center
Raleigh, North Carolina

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thank you, Bianca, for that wonderful introduction and for representing America's military spouses with such poise and courage. Bianca, you've been a recruiter, a mentor, an ambassador, a journalist, a soccer coach, a PTA leader and a pretty incredible Italian chef, I'm told. Let's give a huge hand to America's Military Spouse of the Year.

We also have with us in the audience today the Army Spouse of the Year, Crystal Cavalier. Please stand up and be recognized. Crystal, I was reading one of your blog posts on "Army Tanker's Wife" this morning, and I was struck by something you wrote: You said, "The greater the struggle, the greater the reward." Well, let me just respond to that, because I read about your work to support your fellow spouses during deployments, and your work to help military families cope with the effects of PTSD, and your work as an FRSA, and your work to raise awareness about juvenile arthritis. Your struggles may not make you rich, but they sure do make your country proud.

Crystal and Bianca: You represent the hundreds of thousands of military families across America whose love and support makes everything possible. You inspire me, and you have the thanks of a grateful nation.

I should also note that Bianca is the proud wife of a hard-working Marine Gunnery Sargent. So before we go any further, I think a "happy birthday" is in order. On this very day in the year 1775, the Continental Congress passed a resolution that gave birth to a few good men.

Tomorrow, we honor all of our nation's military heroes on Veterans Day. But today, we say "happy birthday" to the United States Marine Corps. After 236 years, the men and women of the Corps are still the first to fight for our freedoms, and they never let us down. Let's give our Marines a round of applause.

I also want to acknowledge some special guests here with us today, who've all been such allies and supporters of our men and women in uniform: Congressman Brad Miller; North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco; Chairwoman Lynne Holmes of the North Carolina Employment Security Commission; State Representative and Army reservist Grier Martin; and Colonel Col. John Nicholson, a military advisor to Governor Perdue

And finally, I want to pay special tribute to Colonel Martin and the brave men and women of the North Carolina National Guard. Whether you're patrolling the skies over Kuwait, keeping the peace in Moldova, or helping your neighbors rebuild after a Category 4 hurricane, the North Carolina National Guard is "always ready and always there."

Tomorrow we celebrate Veterans Day. As the U.S. Secretary of Labor, I'm here today in Raleigh to deliver a message: Our service members who fight to protect our freedoms abroad shouldn't have to fight for jobs when they return home.

We ask so much of our military personnel: to put their careers on hold, leave their loved ones behind and embark on dangerous missions across the world. At the Department of Labor, we strive to honor their contributions every day. We do this by putting the full weight of our department behind programs that ensure rewarding careers are waiting for them when they come home.

Last Thursday, we issued a report called "The Veteran Labor Force in the Recovery." Our report finds that there were 11.8 million veterans in the American labor force. The recession has not spared our military heroes. The unemployment rate for these men and women rose from 3.8 percent in 2007 to 8.6 percent today. During the past two months, the unemployment rate for the post-9/11 generation of veterans has climbed to 12.1 percent — more than 3 points above the civilian unemployment rate.

Here in North Carolina, the unemployment rate for veterans is a little better. It was 8.5 percent at the end of last year, but that's still too high. As our troops come home from Iraq, they deserve a hero's welcome and a chance to utilize their unique skills to help re-grow our economy

As Veterans Day approaches, the most important thing we can do to honor our veterans is employ them.

Soon, we expect a Senate vote on critical provisions of the American Jobs Act that would provide incentives for employers to hire unemployed veterans. The President's jobs bill would provide tax relief of up to $5,600 for firms that hire veterans and up to $9,600 for employers that hire veterans with service-related disabilities. I'll be blunt: Legislation that cuts taxes on business and provides job opportunities for veterans should be the most bipartisan no-brainer that Congress considers all session.

Last week, the President took executive action to expand opportunities for veterans with medical training. We're working with community health centers to put at least one medic in each center. That would put 8,000 veterans with medical expertise back to work. We're also helping medics get fast-tracked to get training to become physician assistants. They treat our wounded on the battlefield and they can do a lot of good here at home.

But that's just the beginning. This week, President Obama announced new actions we're taking at the Labor Department to help our veterans find good jobs here at home. Effective immediately, every post-9/11 veteran can go to the DOL website and download a Veteran Gold Card. This card entitles them to six months of intensive job counseling and personalized case management services at one of the Labor Department's 3,000 One-Stop Career Center locations across the country.

We're excited about the gold card, because our experience shows that veterans who get one-on-one job assistance have much greater success in launching civilian careers. These services will include career assessments, direct referrals to open jobs, interview coaching, resume assistance and training referrals.

The Labor Department has also launched a new website called My Next Move for Veterans. It can be accessed at www.dol.gov/vets/. This website allows our veterans to enter in their military occupation code and discover civilian jobs where their skills translate. Or you can enter a specific career field and browse more than 900 career options.

Let me give you a couple of examples: If you worked as an Army "wheeled vehicle mechanic," you can enter your occupation code — 91B — into the website and find four dozen open jobs for auto mechanics in North Carolina. If you worked as an Army "unit supply specialist," enter occupation code 92Y and you will find 46 vacant jobs that you qualify for in the Tar Heel state.

If you're a veteran and you want to change jobs, this website can help you, too. You can enter in your dream job, and the site will walk you through the steps you need to take to make your dream come true. This website will tell you who's hiring locally, how much different jobs pay, and what institutions offer training or apprenticeships you need to make a career change.

Finally, at the Labor Department, we're overhauling our vets employment workshop. Every year, 132,000 transitioning veterans go through our workshop to learn about how to find a job as a civilian or reservist. We're redoing our curriculum to help veterans better communicate their value to a company's hiring manager. This is a program not only for veterans; it's also for military spouses looking for work.

It's the first redesign of our DOL/VETS employment workshop program in 19 years. We know from experience that military skills are invaluable in the civilian workforce, but we need to do a better job of connecting those dots for employers. We've already tested the new curriculum locally at Fort Bragg, and we're very excited about our response.

So let me close today by quoting our commander-in-chief: "If you can save a life in Afghanistan, you can save a life in an ambulance. If you can oversee millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, you can help a business balance its books here at home."

Amen, Mr. President. I'm so proud to work in the nation's capital to help our veterans find rewarding careers worthy of their sacrifice to this great nation. At a time when Washington can seem so broken, we're lucky to have a President who believes America has an obligation to serve our military families as well as they've served us.

God bless you, Raleigh veterans. God bless you, North Carolina National Guard. And God bless, the United States of America.