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Regional TAP Advisory Council Meeting - Speech

Frederico Juarbe Jr.
Regional TAP Advisory Council Meeting
May 1, 2002

Good morning everyone.  Thank you Kevin for that introduction and for the years of institutional knowledge you bring to the TAP program.

There’s an old Chinese proverb that says may you be cursed to live in interesting times.

Well, I accept that the times are indeed interesting, but I do not see it as a curse.

In fact, I see it as a unique opportunity.

I have been an advocate for veterans most of my adult life.  And I sincerely believe that all those experiences were preparing me for the assignment I have now.

I am proud to be the assistant secretary of the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service in 2002.

And I’m proud to have partners like you because without your dedicated service, VETS’ programs could never reach the veterans we must serve.

Since 1991, TAP has been providing information to separating service members and their spouses so that they can make a successful transition to civilian life.

Working together with our partners, the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Transportation, we now have a distinct but limited window of opportunity to build a better transition system that will provide 21st century services to 21st century veterans.

That means keeping up with changing times, both in the content of the workshops and in the way we deliver them.

I don’t have to remind you that investing the time prior to separation pays handsome dividends when service members enter the civilian labor market.

 TAP gives its participants a preview of the civilian economy and prepares them to be successful in it.

When Kevin invited me to participate in this conference, I knew it would be an opportunity to give you an update on legislative and program activities.  And there’s a lot going on.

But more importantly, it would give me the opportunity to listen and learn from our most important partners; the men and women who serve veterans where they live and work; men and women whose dedication to their work is the critical ingredient to helping veterans find quality employment.

You are on the front lines of service delivery for veterans seeking employment and training assistance.

You get the job done day in and day out.

You know your mission.

You are committed to your mission.

You live your mission everyday.

We confront a world profoundly changed by events of September 11, a day of infamy for this generation of Americans…and for all freedom loving people of the world.

Americans are looking at the men and women of our Armed Forces with a renewed sense of respect and pride.

 For more than a century, San Diego has sent our young men and women to the far corners of the world to stand freedom’s watch and defend freedom’s promise of honor, and peace and dignity for all people.

And San Diego has provided them with the hero’s welcome they deserve when they have come back home.

This Administration understands and deeply appreciates their patriotism, their dedication, and the skills and experiences they bring to the civilian labor force.    

We know that veterans deserve the best and most up-to-date services that we can devise.

That's why Secretary Principi and I are joining President Bush to take a fresh look at all government programs which affect veterans.

One of the ways we are looking to improve the quality and delivery of employment and training programs is contained in the President's fiscal year 2003 budget. 

It would transfer funding for the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program, the Local Veterans Employment Representatives, and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Project grants from the Department of Labor to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Responsibility for TAP workshops would also go to the VA.

This transfer as part of the President's overall strategy to better serve citizens by increasing the effectiveness and accountability of all government programs.  It is designed to strengthen services to veterans by putting them all under the roof of an agency devoted to addressing the needs of veterans.

The two agencies have been in continuous coordination on this initiative since last December with assistance from the Office of Management and Budget.  OMB, VETS, and VA have working groups focusing on various administrative, financial, and legislative implications of the proposed transfer.

I expect the Administration’s legislative proposal to be submitted soon.

We intend that this transition be a seamless one.  No veteran should encounter a gap or a reduction in service while these changes take place.

We cannot afford to allow any veterans to be left behind.

But no matter how this, or any other, legislative proposal plays out in the coming months, VETS has an important mission to carry out this year, right now, for every veteran seeking transition services.

And we need to work with you to make sure that our efforts are successful.

I do not intend VETS or its programs to be in limbo while the legislative process plays out

To that end, we have been engaged in an active reengineering of the TAP workshops with all of our TAP partners.

The TAP manual and facilitators’ guide have been rewritten and redesigned.

By July, I anticipate that the new materials will be in the hands of the facilitators and available to TAP participants.

You’ll hear more about that project from Kevin and Jan Trunce of NVTI on Thursday.

We’ve engaged a contractor to survey TAP participants because we need to know the effectiveness of this program.

The preliminary findings are very positive.

80 percent of those responding said they were encouraged to attend TAP while they were in the service.

86 percent said they found the information they received during the workshops was helpful in their transition to the civilian labor force.

But this is not a time to rest on our laurels; I believe it is a time to build on our accomplishments.

I also believe that the longer I stay in this job, the more I will understand how much I don’t know.

That’s where you come in.

I need to hear from you on all issues of mutual concern. 

It is through clear, candid, and continuous dialogue that we will improve our working relationships, develop better programs and services, and thereby better serve all America’s veterans.

It is a major challenge but one from which we must not retreat.

With your prayers and your active involvement, I know we will succeed.

Thank you.

  God bless you all and God bless America.