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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Deputy Assistant Secretary for Veteran's Employment and Training Service Teresa Gerton

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Veteran's Employment and Training Service Teresa Gerton
Opening of Operation PAVE Event,
Tampa, Florida,
July 12, 2013

Good morning! Sherman and Bill, I'd like to thank you for including the Department of Labor Veterans' Employment and Training Service in this great event. It's really a privilege to be here with you all today to mark the opening of the Operation PAVE office in Tampa and to recognize the great contributions that the Paralyzed Veterans of America organization is making to the welfare of our wounded veterans.

You know, I've only been on the job with VETS for a month now, but already I have been impressed with how many people across government, the private sector, and our non-profit organizations are working to solve the challenge of veterans' unemployment. It truly is a partnership, an unprecedented level of team work, and it is making a difference. My last job in the Department of Defense was with the Army Materiel Command. This huge organization, over 70,000 soldiers and civilians assigned around the world, was responsible for managing the Army's depots and arsenals... those industrial manufacturing and equipment repair sites that got broken equipment back into the fight. AMC made a commitment to help get veterans "back in the fight" too and created the "Always a Soldier" program, designed to put soldiers, often wounded veterans, back to work as civilians in those same depots and arsenals. It is a great program, but it can only reach as broadly as its contact network, and its reliance on one-to-one interaction means finding the right veteran for the right position is sometimes like looking for a needle in a haystack. What we are facing today, and in the years to come, is a wave of returning veterans whose needs will far exceed the capacity of any single stand-alone program. We need an integrated, total government, community, and corporate effort to support these veterans as they leave the military, return to their communities, and seek to enter the civilian workforce.

That's why it is so good to see my colleagues from the VA -Kathleen Fogarty, Director of VA Medical Center and Mike Prendergast, Executive Director, Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as DOD here today. You can see in our combined presence here the unique level of government cooperation and commitment to this urgent opportunity. It starts with the President and First Lady, and flows across every government agency. But, commitment alone is not enough. The unemployment statistics released last Friday for June contained good news — the overall unemployment rate for veterans declined from 6.6% in May to 6.3% in June, and it was down a full 1% for the subset of post 9/11 veterans. But inside those statistics are indicators that certain groups still face steep struggles. The unemployment rate for veterans aged 18-24 is a staggering 20.5%, and for disabled veterans with a service-connected disability is 6.5%. On top of that, we know that there are over 10 million veterans, including 1.6 million service-disabled veterans, who are out of the labor force. These numbers tell us that there is real work to be done to help our veterans prepare for, find, and succeed in civilian employment.

I'd like to recognize here the incredibly dedicated counselors in the PAVE program. PAVE has been instrumental in helping over 285 veterans enter employment since its founding in 2007. Susan Deguzman here in Tampa has been placing one veteran each week in the seven months this office has been open — that's a phenomenal success rate! The great counselors in the PAVE programs across the country work closely with their DVOP partners to share information about job openings and qualified veteran applicants and so serve as force multipliers in support of our wounded warriors. As PVA expands the number of PAVE sites and DOL increases the number of DVOPS, this partnership will only get stronger.

I want to leave you with some statistics. As we bring our veterans home from Afghanistan and downsize our military forces, we expect the population of veterans to increase by as many as 200,000 each year over the next five years. Among veterans who served during Gulf War-era II, nearly 3 in 10 (712,000) reported having a service connected disability. Of these, 70.3 percent were in the labor force in August 2012, compared with 87.0 percent of veterans from this period with no service-connected disability. Among Gulf War-era II veterans, the unemployment rate of those with a disability was 8.0 percent. That means that those of us tackling the challenge of placing these veterans in meaningful civilian jobs have a great opportunity ahead of us. By working together across the boundaries that have often divided us, by bringing together the collective resources of the government, the private, and the non-profit sectors, and by committing ourselves to this most important of causes, we can meet our Nation's obligation to the men and women who have served our country in uniform.

I look forward to working with all of you. Thank you for all you do every day to support our Veterans.