Monday, June 9, 2014

Murray Receives Congressional Leadership Award for Work with Military Communities

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks upon receiving the Association of Defense Communities’ 2014 Congressional Leadership Award honoring her work to help military communities and veterans in Washington State and across the country.

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks at the event:

“Good morning!

“Thank you so much for that introduction.

“I’d also like to thank ADC board member and Lakewood, Washington resident, Dan Penrose, for his support in my nomination and his years of excellent work with the South Sound Military and Communities Partnership.

“And of course, thank you to everyone at ADC for this honor.

Senator Murray with Rear Admiral (ret.) Craig Quigley, Vice President-Elect, Association of Defense Communities, and Celeste Werner, ADC Awards Committee Chair

“Serving our men and women in uniform has been a life-long interest of mine. As some of you know, my father was a veteran –and as one of the very first American servicemembers to reach the beaches of Okinawa - my father didn’t talk about his experiences during that time. In fact, we only really learned about them by reading his journals after he passed away.

“When I got older, I again saw first-hand the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make.

“In the summer of 1972, I took an internship in the mental health ward of the Seattle VA. It was there I saw how our nation’s heroes were so easily slipping through the cracks of the system – leaving so many jobless, homeless, and frankly – helpless.

“And as we all know, the system is still failing far too many men and women, even today.

“So when I got to the Senate, not a day went by when I did not think about these experiences and the opportunity I had to do right by these men and women. And although I am no longer the Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have continued my work on behalf of veterans in my role as Chairman of Senate Budget Committee.

"And that includes making the transition home for our separated veterans as seamless as possible. Because – as you all know – our men and women in uniform have leadership ability, discipline, and technical skills to not only find work but to excel in 21st Century workforce.

“But despite the facts, they continue to struggle. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, veterans ages 18-24 have unemployment rates over 20 percent.

“That’s why I was proud we took a major step towards solving this crisis when President Obama signed into law the VOW to Hire Heroes Act in 2011 – legislation I co-authored with Republican Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida.

“Among other things, this law: provides tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire veterans, makes participation in the Transition Assistance Program mandatory for most separating servicemembers, and expands the education and training we provide transitioning servicemembers.

“Thanks to this legislation we have been able to take a real, concrete step to help our servicemembers as our military draws down and they begin to transition home.

“In fact, before this law – participation in the Transition Assistance Program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in my home state of Washington was at approximately 45 percent. Now, roughly 90 percent of transitioning JBLM servicemembers are taking advantage of these important programs.

“However, this law is only a first step. That’s why I am so glad part of ADC’s mission is to foster public/private partnerships in military communities. Because these types of relationships are an important part of the next step in encouraging businesses to hire our nation’s heroes.

“So I’d just like to touch on a few things we all can be doing when working in our own communities to help connect our nation’s heroes to businesses large and small.

“First, we need to get the word out to companies to educate their human resources teams about the benefits of hiring veterans and how skills learned in the military translate to the work a company does. I can’t tell you how often I hear from veterans who tell me that the terms they use in interviews and on resumes fail to get through to interviewers.

“Second, we need to help companies provide job training and resources for transitioning servicemembers.  This is something I’ve seen done at large organizations like Amazon and Microsoft in my home state, but also at smaller companies in conjunction with local colleges.  In fact, the most successful of these programs capitalize on skills developed during military service but also utilize on-the-job training.

“Third, we can all work to let business leaders know how important it is to publicize job openings with Veterans Service Organizations, at local military bases to help connect veterans with jobs, and to work with local One-Stop Career Centers.

“Fourth, we must encourage businesses to develop an internal veterans group within your company to mentor recently discharged veterans.

“And finally, businesses must reach out to local community colleges and universities to help develop a pipeline of the many, many veterans that are using GI bill benefits to gain employment in their particular area.

“If we can spread the message on just a few of these steps, I’m confident that we will be able to continue to build on the success we have had in hiring veterans.  Members of America’s Armed Forces don’t ask for a lot and too often they are coming home and facing unnecessary stresses and struggles.

“We all need to work together to guarantee our nation’s heroes get a fair shot.  That they are not measured by fear or stigma – but what they can do, what they have done, and what they will do.

“So thank you again for being here this morning and for this honor. I am proud to be your partner in the U.S. Senate and I look forward to continuing our work together on behalf of our military members and their families.”

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