Serving Veterans: Our Duty, Our Honor

by Seth Harris on February 7, 2013 · 6 comments

No others are owed a greater measure of gratitude for our rights and freedoms than the men and women who answer the call to serve in our armed forces. That is why the Labor Department works to help service members transition from the military to good civilian jobs, and why we announced changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act on Tuesday that specifically benefit military families.

Photo: FMLA 20th anniversary celebration

Former President Bill Clinton delivers remarks during the 20th anniversary celebration of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The expanded rule implements congressional amendments to the FMLA that will allow caregivers of certain veterans with a serious injury or illness time they need to make their loved ones well. The rule permits eligible workers to take up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for a veteran, and expands the ability of workers to take leave for qualifying situations when a family member is deployed, among other provisions.

I was honored to announce the new rule standing alongside former President Bill Clinton, former Sen. Chris Dodd, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Tina Tchen, the First Lady’s chief of staff. You can view a video of the event here, and you can learn more about the rule at the Wage and Hour Division’s FMLA final rule website.

President Obama speaks often about our obligation to America’s veterans, and this administration is committed to ensure transitioning service members and veterans find their place in America’s middle class. The most recent report from the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics on veterans unemployment gives us some cause for optimism, but also indicates there is room for improvement, especially among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Overall, veterans unemployment remains lower than that of non-veterans; it has fallen to 7.0 percent as of January 2013 (12-month moving average), the lowest since 2009 (see chart below). However, while veterans from the post-9/11 era have seen their unemployment rate decline by 3.5 percentage points since peaking two years ago, their unemployment rate still hovers at 11.7 percent. That is much too high, and the Labor Department is determined to continue working with veterans seeking good jobs.

Graph: Veterans and non-veterans unemployment, April 2007 to January 2013. View data here: http://www.bls.gov/cps/demographics.htm#vets

Veterans and non-veterans unemployment, April 2007 to January 2013. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics Program

Our Veterans’ Employment and Training Service − working with our other agencies, including the Employment and Training Administration − is meeting this ongoing challenge head on. Keith Kelly, our new assistant secretary for veterans employment and training, will be leading these efforts. You can learn more about Keith by reading his blog from Monday, Combat Veteran Presents His Vision for Leading VETS.

For example, this year, our Transition Assistance Program − TAP − will serve approximately 200,000 transitioning service members and their spouses through three-day employment workshops. And we offer hands-on assistance to veterans and military families through American Job Centers. Veterans seeking job training or placement assistance, or just advice about how to improve their resumes, will receive priority service in any of our 2,717 centers (follow the link to locate a center near you). Online tools like My Next Move for Veterans are making it easier for veterans to connect with employment opportunities, too.

We’re also ensuring employers meet their obligations to protect civilian job rights and benefits for veterans and members of the military’s active and reserve components. In fiscal year 2012, we investigated and closed approximately 1,500 cases under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, known as USERRA.

And we’re doing our part to end veteran homelessness with VETS’ Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program, the Homeless Female Veteran and Veterans with Families Program, and the Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program. These programs enrolled 16,413 participants in 2011, providing them with support and services to re-enter the workforce. 

How we treat our veterans − and their families − says a lot about who we are as a nation. We can all be proud of the new FMLA rule, which lends a helping hand to the families that support America’s heroes. And we’re honored to continue serving those who have sacrificed so much for us.

Seth D. Harris is the acting U.S.  Secretary of Labor.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 tom bryant February 7, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Good day,
I have had the honor to train and place veterans in good paying careers for over a decade. While at a Syracuse tech school, I built a network that remains today. A group
of engineers, scientists, nuclear plant operators, tradesmen and business owners. We work together to strengthen our regional economic development by hiring veterans first. We are members of the American Welding Society in Central New York. For more info call Tom Bryant at xxx-xxx-xxxx (phone number removed)

2 Jose Pablo Arzola, BAM, MPA February 8, 2013 at 10:13 am

I believe your tag line of “serving veterans, our honor” is nothing more than empty words. There are attempts to divide veterans. Every Program prosed excludes Vietnam Veterans and if you are a veteran over 60 years old “need not apply”

As a Vietnam veteran with a 70% service connected disability and a Master’s Degree, I am unemployed. Oh yes, I can find a job starting at $36K – this is an insult! Furthermore I would have to be WHITE or BLACK to be hired at the GS 13- gs15 rating scale.

3 Susan Tapia February 8, 2013 at 11:29 am

Occasionally we have a need for Central Utility Plant operators at various locations throughout the country, and often have found U.S. Navy veterans have the experience and training we need. Can you provide some information on where we might post any job openings we have?

4 Minister Lamont E. Purnell February 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm

As member of the clergy and veteran our ministry, New Church of Redemption- Innovative Treatment Altrnatives, Inc. is in the beginnig stages of housing homeless vets in supervised 29 bed unit and offerig supportive services. Unfortunately, we lack the funds needed to provide comprehensive services from a community perspective because many homeless vets with behavioral health problems don’t have funds or medical coverage. Are there any grants or do veterans have access to emergency funds to help with rent and board? What is out there in the way of funding to help veterans in transition from homelessness to independant living. We provide services in the Philadelphia PA area and we are a non-profit 501(C)(3) organization with a site in Wilmington DE.

Thank you

5 Denise Tan February 11, 2013 at 6:56 am

I totally agree with this article! We sure do owe our protection and lives to the armed forces. Their heroic deeds surely salutes me. And it is a great idea to provide those benefits to them because they deserve it. I’m so happy to hear that the government is doing their job in providing the needs of the veterans. And the programs are great. Thank you for this information.

6 Dr. CJ Jeffery February 24, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Sound good if the DOL worked same for all veterans. I received letter from Office of Personnel Management on April 7, 2010. As I lied in hospital bed, I listen to my wife read the approval for disability retirement. I experienced another life threatening event after circumstances in federal workforce.

Where do I begin with reentry after OPM decisions for disability retirement related to “job position” instead of the medical conditions called Sarcoidosis? I contend for reentry to federal workforce as though pending benefits after years of the unexplainable medical conditions from military healthcare.

Miraculously, I survived amongst federal workforce for repetitively chronic disabilities of the multi-symptom illnesses and permanent disabilities of traumatic injuries. I was not afforded benefit provisions (COAD) even though I worked for 8 years at different agencies.

Consequently, I see nothing new with DOL and federal provisions for Veteran seeking employment. I moved on beyond complexity amongst medical community who were baffled about the acute and subacute episodes of the multi-symptom illnesses after Gulf War. I also hurdled that the medical community were not smart about traumatic injuries after internal complications and external force associated with body shutting down (brain or heart).

Subsequently, I worked in and out of the strenuous duties on Active Duty. But I need sedentary positions after medical diagnoses of the severe disabilities. I functioned as program management at federal agencies from Department of the Air Force (GS9) and Department of Army (GS12).

With this in mind, I attended training at National Veteran Training Institute, Transition Assistance Program and Army Career Alumni Program at Installation programs (Army and Air Force). I processed information for case transfers to Department of Social Service (DSS), Departmetn of Health and Human Service (DHHS) and State programs or Employment Commission (Pennsylvania and North Carolina).

Since military discharge, I completed training of various activities as military veteran or program facilitator and manager. I managed budgets, office administration and numerous managerial functions. I also scheduled job fairs, personal interviews, community partnerships and monthly events. I obtained success at numerous levels of the federal workforce.

Now I am recipient of the benefit provisions at state program (North Carolina Department of Vocational Rehabilitation) and Social Security Adminstration (Ticket to Work). In 2003, I completed Chapter 31 (Vocational Rehabilitation) with Department of Veteran Affairs as military veterans. I also completed degrees so that I worked at different levels of the federal workforce until April 7, 2010.

Finally, I have SF50 for reentry to federal positions. The expiration date is April 7, 2013 as though April 2014 for Veteran Retraining Assistance Program. But I battled reentry after 3 years of the disability retirement. I contacted CPAC at Fort Bragg and OPM in Washington D.C. What is your suggestion?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: