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HHS Veterans Day Observance

November 15, 2012
Washington DC

Thank you, Ned and Cathy.  I also want to thank Kate for sharing her thoughts.  I’m so glad we’re joined by many other Veterans Service Organizations – and I hope everyone will get a chance to visit the booths afterward.

Since America’s founding, our way of life has been made possible by the service and sacrifice of millions of veterans, and their families. I am the daughter of a WWII vet, and my four uncles also fought in the war. One of them made the ultimate sacrifice, so our family knows the contributions made by service men and women, but also their families and loved ones. And we owe a special debt of gratitude to those who have served and still serve in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade.  Many of these patriots have gone on three or four tours, risking limb and life for the country they love.  Their families have had their resilience tested by the long and frequent absences of a father, mother, husband, wife, or child.

Our nation cannot ever fully repay the debt owed to our veterans and their families.  But we can use this opportunity to honor what these Americans have done, and to recommit ourselves to supporting military personnel and their families after their service.

Here at HHS, we’re well aware of the contributions veterans make after they take off their uniform.  We are fortunate to have about 5,500 veterans, and even more military spouses and family-members, working in every part of this Department and on every one of our important missions. 

For those of you here today and watching online, I want to thank you for your continued service to your country. 

We at HHS are also proud to play a role in this Administration’s commitment to ensuring that all veterans get the support and services they need when they return home.  As the President has often said, no one who fights for this country should ever have to fight for the care that he or she has earned or a job when they come home. 

That’s why we’re partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide the vital health care and treatment they’ve earned, including mental health services.

It’s why we’ve awarded training grants to 24 graduate schools and programs to help support the training of more mental health providers specifically trained to meet the needs of our military personnel, veterans, and their families.

And it’s why we joined with the White House Rural Council and the VA to launch a pilot initiative that will use tele- health to improve access to care in rural areas, where many of our veterans live.

HHS is also doing our part to help America’s veterans connect with job opportunities when they return home.  

Our veterans have skills and experience that are badly needed in our health centers, rural health clinics, and critical access hospitals.  Unfortunately, too many veterans are delayed in finding a job because they don’t have the right certificate or degree.

Our veterans have shown their military medical training on the battlefield and they should be able to use their hard-earned experience to get good health care jobs.

That’s why HRSA is giving priority in physician assistant education grant awards to universities and colleges that support veterans. 

It’s why a HRSA grantee has established a partnership with the Army, Navy, and Air Force so that medics and corpsmen can receive academic credit in nursing programs for their military health care service.

And it’s why we’re promoting the hiring of veterans at Community Health Centers. 

Earlier today, I joined the national Endowment of the Arts and the Defense Department to announce an expansion of operation Homecoming, a program for our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. We know that health is not just the absence of illness and this program uses art and music therapy as a healing tool for wounded vets and their families. We are a collaborating partner, gathering research and exploring wider possibilities for patients and their families.

These are just a few of the steps we’re taking to ensure that we do right by our veterans.  And we need to keep working to make sure our veterans return home to the services and supports they need to build healthy and fulfilling lives. 

So this week, as we honor our nation’s veterans, I want to express special gratitude to all those who have served who work alongside us at HHS every day.  And I also want to thank all the HHS employees who are working to make sure our country serves our veterans as well as they have served us.

All of you remind me why I am so proud to be Secretary of this department.

Thank you.