News Releases

JBLM: Murray Delivers Remarks at Washington State Service Member for Life Transition Summit

Oct 21 2014

Murray: “…we are at a defining moment in the history of how we treat our veterans.”

Murray: “…the transition program here at JBLM is setting the standard for military bases around the country.”

Murray lays out steps to build on progress, ensure all veterans are connected with care, professional opportunity

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at the Washington State Service Member for Life Transition Summit, a three-day conference focused on connecting veterans, transitioning servicemembers, and their families to meaningful professional opportunities.

In her remarks, Murray reflected on the progress made so far toward helping servicemembers in Washington state and across the country transition successfully to civilian life. Murray also laid out specific steps to build on recent progress, and called for continued commitment to uphold our responsibility to those who have bravely served our nation.

Key Excerpts from Senator Murray’s Remarks As Prepared:

“We are at a pivotal point for an entire generation of post 9/11 veterans who after more than a decade of repeated deployments, stress on their family and personal relationships, and coping with the visible and invisible wounds of war, have been facing a difficult transition home. It’s a challenge that all of us – collectively here today – have been tasked with meeting.”

“…for those who have worn our nation’s uniform - and particularly for those who have spent the last decade being shuttled back and forth to war zones half a world away, the road home isn’t always smooth, the red tape is often long, and the transition from the battlefield to the workplace is never easy, no matter what stage of your career you are entering. But everyone here today recognizes that this shouldn’t be the case. Because we all know that our servicemembers have the leadership ability, discipline, and technical skills to find work.”

“Today, thanks to laws like my VOW to Hire Heroes Act and other efforts, we have been able to take real, concrete steps to help our servicemembers as our military draws down and they begin to transition home.  We’re now allowing servicemembers to begin the federal employment process prior to separation, and have a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs in government.”

“…the transition program here at JBLM is setting the standard for military bases around the country. Their approach to this process begins much earlier than most, helping servicemembers map out their transition well before their separation date.”

“We’ve had some great wins over the past few years in implementing these laws, creating partnerships or initiatives to get our veterans into jobs, and bringing the unemployment rate down. And now we need to be doing more to help our servicemembers transition into careers. Careers that not only hone their skills and support a family, but serve as a launching pad.”

“As we seek to employ more veterans, we need future bosses and coworkers to understand that issues like PTSD or depression are natural responses to some of the most stressful events a person can experience.  We need them to understand that these illnesses do not afflict every veteran.  And most importantly, we need potential employers to understand that for those who are affected by these illnesses, they can get help, they can get better, and they can get back into their lives.”

“…we are at a defining moment in the history of how we treat our veterans. For many of us - particularly those who grew up with the Vietnam War - it’s clear that we stand perilously close to repeating some of the same mistakes of the past. But I am working every day to avoid that. And I know that here in Washington we have the resources, ideas, best practices, and leaders to be a model for communities and the military across the country. “

“I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to keep the promise we’ve made to provide not only care - but opportunity - to all those who’ve worn the uniform. And I challenge you to take these next steps I have outlined today and accept the mission, and fold them into the great work you are already doing in your communities around the state and across the country. I can’t say enough how honored I am to speak to you today. And how proud I am to be your partner in the U.S. Senate.”

Full Text of Senator Murray’s Remarks As Prepared: 

“Good afternoon.

“Thank you Major General Bret D. Daugherty for that kind introduction.

“Thank you to JBLM and the summit sponsors for their work in bringing everyone together this week to focus on the needs of our transitioning servicemembers and their families.

“And finally, thank you to all of you here.

“This summit provides such an important opportunity to further the conversation our region and our nation is having –

“And I’m so proud to represent a state that is knowledgeable, engaged, and willing to do whatever it takes to support our men and women in uniform, who – for many of you – are also your neighbors, family, and friends.

“I’m proud to represent this state at what I believe has been really a defining decade in the treatment of our nation’s veterans and servicemembers when it comes to transitioning to civilian life.

“Looking around this room, I am happy to see so many familiar faces, from military leaders to business leaders, from community non-profits to servicemembers, veterans and military family members. 

“I appreciate the focus and dedication you are each taking to improve military transition.

“We are at a pivotal point for an entire generation of post 9/11 veterans who after more than a decade of repeated deployments, stress on their family and personal relationships, and coping with the visible and invisible wounds of war, have been facing a difficult transition home.

“It’s a challenge that all of us – collectively here today – have been tasked with meeting.

“Over the last 13 years our servicemembers have not only answered the call to serve, but fulfilled every mission and met every goal we asked of them. 

“We are all grateful for their courage and strength, and the sacrifices they have made.

“And I am hoping that through this summit and others like it we can come together to really examine what every single one of us, and the organizations we represent, have been doing, and what we can do going forward, to continue one of our most vital community and military missions.

“And that is ensuring a successful transition to civilian life for every servicemember.

“This effort is not just about highly trained servicemembers. Or those of a certain rank. Or the ones that live in a certain region. Or just the servicemembers who are enrolled in education and training programs…

“Our challenge is to ensure that all – every single one – of our servicemembers can transition to civilian life successfully.

“In the past we have responded well to this challenge – the efforts of the greatest generation are a good example. There are also times in which we, as a nation, have stumbled—as we did after Vietnam.

“It is these different periods in our history that must guide our conversations here this week – and I’m hoping they will continue to serve as a guide for all of us far into the future.

“I can certainly say that they guide my own work back in what we here in Washington state like to call the ‘other Washington’ – also known as Congress.  And that’s because those pivotal moments played such an important role in my own life.

“As many of you may know, my father was a World War II veteran who was one of the first to storm the beaches of Okinawa.  I can remember as a little kid the reverence those in my hometown of Bothell had for his service.

“The way he was treated – not just by neighbors and community members – but also by the federal government – which provided him with a GI bill.

“And – many years later when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and could no longer work – the federal government was there with worker training programs for my mom so she could provide for my family.

“And that commitment helped my father and his fellow veterans prosper for years after their service.

“But decades later my experience with those returning from war was much different, when as a college senior I interned at the psychiatric ward of the Seattle VA at a time when veterans were coming home with the invisible wounds of war, which they didn’t yet call PTSD.

“I can remember the faces of the veterans, many of whom were even younger than me, who were being told they were shell shocked. 

“I can also remember – like many of you – the lack of answers during that period. The feeling that we were not a nation firmly at the back of those who had served.  The feeling that as a nation we were quickly turning the page on that war - and those who fought it.

“And one of the most important things those moments have taught us is how critically important it is for us to come together with the common purpose of supporting our nation’s heroes. 

“In fact, nowhere is that truer than in the effort to ensure a seamless handoff to civilian life for our men and women in uniform.

“Over the last few years we have all taken part in efforts to ease the difficult transition home for these young servicemembers.

“Whether it has been: private and public partnerships, investments in unique new programs, unified encouragement to seek mental health care and overcome stigmas, or very importantly, with plans to get them back to work.

“As we all know, finding employment is a problem that our veterans face along with millions of other Americans.

“But for our transitioning servicemembers, many of the barriers to employment are unique.

“That’s because for those who have worn our nation’s uniform - and particularly for those who have spent the last decade being shuttled back and forth to war zones half a world away, the road home isn’t always smooth,  the red tape is often long, and the transition from the battlefield to the workplace is never easy, no matter what stage of your career you are entering.

“But everyone here today recognizes that this shouldn’t be the case. Because we all know that our servicemembers have the leadership ability, discipline, and technical skills to find work.

“I remember a few years ago when the citizen-soldiers of the 81st Brigade Combat Team of the Washington Army National Guard were returning to this state after serving their country honorably in Iraq.

“After they came off active duty and returned home, it became clear to me and others I see in this room, that many of them were having a very difficult time in the job market and they needed more help with transition than we were able to provide.

“Today, thanks to laws like my VOW to Hire Heroes Act and other efforts, we have been able to take real, concrete steps to help our servicemembers as our military draws down and they begin to transition home.

“We’re now allowing servicemembers to begin the federal employment process prior to separation, and have a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs in government.

“Our friends at the Department of Labor are now taking a hard look at what military skills and training should be transferable into the civilian sector in order to make it simpler for our veterans to get the licenses and certifications they need.

“And finally, we have required broad preparation for every servicemember as they leave the military as part of the military’s Transition Assistance Program – or TAP.

“According to recent data from the Administration in the quarter ending last March, approximately 85 percent of eligible veterans had attended TAP sessions.

“And while a few of the service branches have room for some much-needed improvement when it comes to compliance with TAP – we’ve seen very impressive numbers overall. 

“Here at JBLM -- where 45 percent of servicemembers once participated in TAP – now 90 percent of the men and women transitioning to civilian life are getting the help they deserve.

“I can tell you - when I wrote the VOW Act, this is exactly what I hoped and envisioned for all our nation’s veterans, but let’s also give credit where it’s due: because the transition program here at JBLM is setting the standard for military bases around the country.

“Their approach to this process begins much earlier than most, helping servicemembers map out their transition well before their separation date.

“What’s even more telling is the participant feedback of the TAP program, showing veterans nationwide felt it prepared them to be ‘career-ready.’

“I’ll repeat that.

“These men and women feel career-ready after participating in these transition programs. They are not looking for a side job. They are not just looking to check the box or find something that will pay the bills. They’re looking for careers—and that’s what we need to focus on.

“We’ve had some great wins over the past few years in implementing these laws, creating partnerships or initiatives to get our veterans into jobs, and bringing the unemployment rate down.

“And now we need to be doing more to help our servicemembers transition into careers. Careers that not only hone their skills and support a family, but serve as a launching pad.

“Unfortunately, this kind of transition seems to be the exception nationwide – instead of the rule – especially with our younger servicemembers.

“In fact, according to a recent survey – roughly two-thirds of veterans are likely to leave their first post-military job within two years, because of issues like low job satisfaction, limited advancement opportunities, and inadequate matches with their military skills.

“The focus shouldn’t just be on employment – but the right employment.

“First, we need to ensure our senior leadership on military bases across the country have an understanding about the importance of these transition programs and allow some flexibility as servicemembers navigate the system.

“The burden of finding a career ultimately lands on the servicemember. And through robust training programs – like the great initiatives that were announced earlier today - many of our servicemembers will not only be learning new skills, but they’ll be ready to work as soon as they separate. And this isn’t just for junior servicemembers. 

“We’ve seen colonels and sergeants major talk about how glad they were to take part in TAP because their resumes and job-search skills were nowhere near ready. 

“Everyone can benefit from these programs.

“However, if they aren’t given the flexibility to access the tools or opportunities available to them – we’re not doing our job to facilitate a seamless handoff to civilian life.

“Second, we need to cut more of the red tape when it comes to the types of internship opportunities available to servicemembers.

“Right now we have an excellent pipeline established for servicemembers to find internships within the federal government.

“But not every servicemember wants to pursue a career with the federal government.Trust me – I get it.

“So why not expand these qualified internship programs beyond the federal government into state and local jurisdictions, many of whom are eager to hire servicemembers once they transition?

“I know there’s a directive currently being reviewed by Secretary McHugh to do just this – and I’m hoping others branches will follow suit.

“Third, businesses need to continue to implement best practices when it comes to creating servicemember-friendly organizations, and getting veterans not into jobs, but into careers. 

“That means taking steps like creating a culture that understands the veteran experience, allowing flexibility for members of the guard and reserve who still serve, and developing an internal veterans group within the company to mentor recently discharged veterans.

“It also means hiring veterans into positions at all levels of seniority – equal to their vast experience and skill.  And it means making sure there is a career path with opportunities for advancement. 

“If we invest in training and promoting veterans, it helps them individually, but it also helps businesses, which will have capable, dedicated employees for the long-term.

“And finally, we must reach out to local community colleges and universities to help grease the wheels for the many, many veterans that are using GI bill benefits, and are looking to gain employment in their particular area of study.

“If all of us can focus on utilizing just a few of these steps as we develop action plans this week and in the future, I’m confident that we will be able to continue to build on the success we have had in helping our men and women in uniform as they transition.

“But there’s one other – even more important thing – on which we need to stay focused. And that’s the often difficult issue of the invisible wounds of war some potential employees face.

“I have heard repeatedly, as I’m sure many of you have as well, from servicemembers that do not put their military service on their resumes because they fear it stigmatizes them. 

“As we seek to employ more veterans, we need future bosses and coworkers to understand that issues like PTSD or depression are natural responses to some of the most stressful events a person can experience. 

“We need them to understand that these illnesses do not afflict every veteran. 

“And most importantly, we need potential employers to understand that for those who are affected by these illnesses, they can get help, they can get better, and they can get back into their lives.

“We must continue to get these problems out in the open and ensure veterans get the treatment that they need.

“Because the veteran will be better, and they will be an even stronger member of your team.

“As you know, it’s no secret that back in the ‘other Washington’ we are sharply divided on any number of economic and political issues facing average Americans right now.

“But providing a seamless transition to our men and women in uniform is one issue we are rarely divided on.

“It unites even the most unlikely partners because they realize that we have all made a promise to those who have signed up to serve. And that’s the legacy of opportunity we have to live up to for today’s servicemembers. 

“It’s a legacy we all have the responsibility of continuing and one that everyone here today has openly embraced.

“As I said before we are at a defining moment in the history of how we treat our veterans.

“For many of us - particularly those who grew up with the Vietnam War - it’s clear that we stand perilously close to repeating some of the same mistakes of the past.

“But I am working every day to avoid that.

“And I know that here in Washington we have the resources, ideas, best practices, and leaders to be a model for communities and the military across the country.

“So I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to keep the promise we’ve made to provide not only care - but opportunity - to all those who’ve worn the uniform.

“And I challenge you to take these next steps I have outlined today and accept the mission, and fold them into the great work you are already doing in your communities around the state and across the country.

“I can’t say enough how honored I am to speak to you today –

“And how proud I am to be your partner in the U.S. Senate.

“Thank you again!”