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Veterans of Foreign Wars - Speech

Frederico Juarbe Jr.
Veterans of Foreign Wars
February 25, 2002

Good morning everyone.  And thank you for that generous introduction.

I can’t tell you how strange it feels to be introduced as anything other than the

Director of National Programs for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

I have no doubt that my years of service in this great organization will help me fulfill the significant responsibilities entrusted to me as assistant secretary of labor for veterans employment and training.

And to paraphrase an ancient Chinese proverb, it seems that I am cursed to serve in interesting times.

But I’m also reminded of Ecclesiastes which reminds us that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. 

And for us, this is a time to break down and a time to build up.

I truly believe that is what President Bush is saying in his challenge to all of us to view government services in a new light with a determination to deliver programs and services in the most effective and efficient manner.

We confront a world profoundly changed by events of September 11.

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

 Someday, many of these men and women will exchange their uniforms for civilian attire.   Many of them will be looking to the government for training, job search and placement assistance to help them successfully transition into the civilian economy.

At the Department of Labor, veterans are among our most important constituencies.  

Our nation's veterans deserve nothing less than access to quality services in both employment and training opportunities. 

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

But veterans, especially those with service connected disabilities, 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.

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 will reduce duplication of effort and strengthen these 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.

The transfer also includes shifting 199 VETS staff to the VA.

51 of VETS staff will remain at the Labor Department to carry out the employment and reemployment responsibilities required under USERRA, conduct veterans’ preference investigations, and monitor Federal contractor filings and job postings.

We do not anticipate that any career employees will lose their jobs as a result of   the proposed transfer.  

DOL and VA also have begun drafting legislation.

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

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

I look forward to working with the VFW and all the veterans service organizations as we move forward to ensuring that all America's veterans get the best employment and training services which they have so justly earned.

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

It is my intention that every member of VETS refocus on our critical missions and redouble our efforts to serve America’s veterans.   It is also my intention that we go forward, this year, with the full range of our programs and services.

Let me share with you my priorities for 2002, priorities that I have shared with every member of VETS staff.

VETS will become a better partner with the states by focusing on outreach and technical assistance.

In short, I intend to take the “coach approach.”

VETS will strengthen our working relationships with Congress, the veterans service organizations, and other Federal agencies.

Finally, VETS will refocus all its oversight responsibilities from compliance monitoring to compliance assistance.

These are approaches I have used throughout my professional life.  I truly believe it is a better way to work.

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, where the veterans service organizations have always needed to 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.