This week, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, addressed the Business and Professional Women Foundation’s (BPW) Inaugural Summit – Joining Forces for Women Veterans. In their own words, BPW described the event as “. . . a call to action to assemble select corporate, government, nonprofit and community leaders to discuss these challenges and solutions to assure suitable housing, good jobs and overall success for women veterans as civilians.”
Valerie spoke from the government point of view about the Administration’s strong commitment to supporting our nation’s veterans. She said that “even in a tough fiscal environment, the President presented one of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ largest percentage budget increases in the past 30 years.” In addition, she noted that there are more than 1.8 million women veterans in the country, and the VA is making care for them a top priority. VA is planning to have 144 full-time Women Veterans Program Managers serving at VA medical facilities to help ensure care is provided with the appropriate level of privacy and sensitivity.
The VA has made the dream of a college education a reality for hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families by implementing the Post-9/11 GI Bill. As of this month, the VA has issued over $5.66 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit payments to 384,726 Veterans or eligible family members pursuing higher education. This includes more than 61,000 women veterans, more than 15,000 military spouses and more than 40,000 children.
Last November, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a Veterans Employment Initiative - a strategic, yet very straightforward, approach to helping the men and women who have served our country in the military find employment in the Federal Government. And in April, the President signed another Executive Order, creating a Veterans Small Business Task Force, committed to coordinating the efforts of Federal agencies to improve capital, business development opportunities and contracting goals for small business owned and controlled by veterans and service-disabled veterans.
We were glad that Valerie and the Council on Women and Girls could support this event. We know that BPW understands what we do – that government needs public-private partnerships to truly make a lasting change. The men and women who serve are the backbone of this country and it is important for us to work together to support them. As President Obama has said, “Caring for our veterans is more than a way of thanking them for their service. It is an obligation to our fellow citizens who have risked their lives to defend our freedom. This selflessness binds our fates with theirs, and recognizing those who were willing to give their last full measure of devotion for us is a debt of honor for every American.”
Jenny Kaplan is Deputy Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls