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Veterans Round Table Edinburgh, Texas

Espiridion "Al" Borrego
Veterans Round Table
Edinburgh, Texas
January 18, 1998

Good morning. It’s an honor to be with you today. Working in Washington for America’s veterans is a very rewarding experience, but I must admit that it’s important to take a reality check by getting out and talking to men and women like yourselves who have served and protected this great nation.

And I always feel closer to reality when I come home to Texas. I was born up the road a ways in Polk.

Traveling with Hershel Gober is always a special privilege — partly because we both like the food that you can only really get in south Texas.

But more than the food, I admire and really enjoy working with Hershel Gober because we both know that our agencies are committed to giving veterans the highest quality programs and services — program and services that they have earned.

And I am privileged to serve Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman who also understands how important veterans are to our civilian labor force. I have had several one-on-one meetings with her and her deputy, Kitty Higgins. I know they understand that veterans not only have special needs but they can also make special contributions to our nation.

They are sensitive to the needs of veterans, especially those groups of veterans who may experience difficulties in the workplace because of perceived disability, discrimination, or homelessness.

Ms. Herman has pledged that all the agencies of the Department of Labor will work for American’s veterans to help them reap their fair share of the rich bounty that our society offers to all its citizens.

We are all painfully familiar with the problems facing veterans and other residents of the Lower Rio Grande Valley — inadequate housing and health care, difficulty in accessing training and good jobs. This area has the highest rate of unemployment in the nation.

One of her goals for the department is to make sure that every working American is prepared with the skills to find and hold good jobs. Our job training grants under JTPA go to organizations working with disabled and Vietnam-era veterans to help them get quality, career building, jobs.

We are regenerating our job development and placement programs for homeless veterans with $3 million in our 1998 budget. The notice soliciting application for these funds will be out soon and we expect to have this money allocated by the end of March.

We must do a better job of informing employers that veterans, especially minority and female veterans, bring many valuable experiences and skills to the workplace.

Electronic technology, like the Internet, can help us do this. It reduces the distances between peoples, geographically and culturally.

Our veteran service representatives are going to have state-of-the-art computer equipment and the knowledge to use it so veterans can have the opportunity to get the good training and quality, career building jobs.

We have five veterans employment representatives in the area, two of them right over in McAllen.

Another of the Secretary’s goal is to ensure that all workplaces are safe and non-discriminatory. My agency is responsible for seeing to it that no veteran, reservist, or National Guard member experiences any form of employment discrimination because of their past service or future reserve obligations.

Electronic technology is improving our enforcement of these important employment and reemployment rights, too. We are compiling more data on a real-time basis, sharing it with our state directors, and training our staff to be better investigators and compile better case files.

We have a user-friendly Internet program on our home page so that veterans, reservists, and National Guard members can answer a series of questions and quickly know whether they may have a valid complaint.

VETS has a good working relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs to case manage voc/rehab participants and place them in jobs more quickly. We have just completed a joint operations guide. It sets out roles and responsibilities for participating staff, describes how improved communications — including the development of a joint marketing plan -- can improve customer service, encourages local tracking procedures, and establishes specific reporting requirements.

All of these efforts leads to our ultimate goal — placing more voc/rehab graduates in good jobs.

These are just some of the ways we at VETS are working to serve America’s veterans. As we move into the 21st century, the needs and aspirations of veterans will be changing as rapidly as the society of which they are such an important part.

Our challenge is to anticipate these changes if we can, meet them when called to do so, and look over the horizon and be ready to serve our customers with the dedication and quality that has come to be the hallmark of VETS.

I look forward to the challenge and to working with you as we achieve success.