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VR&E Leadership and Training Conference - Speech

Frederico Juarbe Jr.
VR&E Leadership and Training Conference
June 10, 2002

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

In the seven months that I have been assistant secretary, I have traveled to many states and met with many organizations.

State employment service agencies, veterans service organizations, one-stop managers and local workforce boards, homeless service providers. My intent at each and every meeting is to improve the working relationship between VETS and that organization.

I can honestly say to that there is no more important group of partners than the men and women gathered in this room today.

You are on the front lines of service delivery for veterans seeking rehabilitation 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.

I want to express my sincere thanks to all of you for helping VETS work to the benefit of veterans.

And while our working relationship is good and getting better, I am here today to challenge us to make it even stronger, more seamless, and more effective.

The reason for the challenge is easy to explain: America's veterans deserve the best programs and services this nation can provide.

They have earned those services by their unselfish duty to their country; men and women in harm's way are earning those services today; and in this uncertain world, thousands more will be looking to us in the months and years to come.

In the wake of the tragedy of September 11, we have all read a lot about government agencies not working together closely enough, sharing too little information and not developing joint strategies.

I know all of you have heard a lot about One VA.

Well, my vision for veterans is One Government.

And we must do it one case at a time.

Because veterans don't really care what agency administers the services they need. They don't care what appropriations bill funds the account that pays for it.

They just want to know that they can count on getting what they need when they need it.

That's why it's important that we take a cooperative, holistic approach to providing services.

That is a better way to work. It's a way that I know Julius works, too.

And it has borne fruit in better VR&E services and better job search and placement services.

Our goals are the same: To get the veteran rehabilitated and back into society as a productive citizen with a good job.

These goals are reflected in the MOU between the two agencies; in the joint training we have done; and in the improved placement rates we have both achieved.

But we should not see mutuality and inclusiveness as agreeing on every issue.

Hot button issues between our two agencies exist and they need to be honestly confronted and jointly addressed.

Let me give you an example which I am sure is familiar to many of you.

Both our agencies are focused on employment as the ultimate outcome of our services.

But we know all too well that completing training successfully does not necessarily mean a veteran is job ready.

Why? There may the issue of substance addiction or PTSD; the local labor market may not be conducive to the skills of the participant; there may be family needs that must be addressed before employment.

I'm sure you can list many more.

The point I'm trying to make is that case management - joint case management - from the very outset of a veteran's entrance into the care system is critical for the ultimate success of both our programs.

Case management needs to begin with assessment, continue through the course of treatment or training, and go beyond entered employment to follow up after placement.

And it needs to include everyone - the medical and psychological staff, the benefits advisor, the trainer, and the employment counselor.

That is a true continuum of care.

Frankly, our numbers are better where our cooperation is close and continuous.

And the ultimate beneficiary is the veteran and we must never lose sight of that fact.

We have other hot button issues: You have a drop out rate that is too high; we have job placement numbers in some states that are too low.

And we can both do better about preparing veterans to start and grow their own businesses.

Your own Jack Hackett recently received an award from [insert name of organization]

At our recent national conference, we had presentations from representatives from The Veterans Corporation, the SBA's Office of Veterans Business Development, and small business specialists from Labor and the VA.

Every veteran that successfully opens his or her own business is a potential employer for other veterans.

We both need to move aggressively in this area.

We both have advisory committees and we are each ex-officio members of the others.

Our ACVET is meeting on June 18.

When we meet, VR&E should be represented. And vice versa.

There's always room on the agenda for you to present issues for discussion.

And I know VETS will be welcome at future meetings of VACOR.

These are small steps we can take right now, irrespective of how pending legislative initiatives play out in the Congress.

But every step is a sign of success in the recovery process. We need to create small successes and build on them.

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.