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An Unwavering Commitment to Asian American and Pacific Islander Veterans

Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, holds a roundtable to highlight VA's work in leveraging partnerships with the AAPI community and to discuss issues of great importance to AAPI veterans.

On Tuesday, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) convened a roundtable on AAPI veteran’s issues.

The goal of this roundtable was to highlight VA’s work in leveraging partnerships with the AAPI community.  Hosted by Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the roundtable gathered high-level Veterans Affairs officials, other federal leaders, and representatives from the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Japanese American Citizen League, National Alliance for Filipino Veterans, National Filipino Veterans for Equity, National Organization of Chamorro Veterans in America, and others, in discussions of great importance to AAPI veterans: data collection, access to healthcare, and veterans benefits.

This roundtable could not have come at a more crucial time, as the data from the 2010 Census revealed that AAPIs are one of the fastest growing racial groups in this country.  Among the nearly 17 million AAPIs across the nation, there are over 265,000 Asian American veterans and 28,000 Native Hawaiian and/or Pacific Islander veterans. 

Over the past three years, the President has provided unprecedented levels of funding to help veterans.  And Secretary Shinseki and his team have worked tirelessly to ensure that VA is doing all it can do to ensure that veterans are receiving the services and benefits they have earned, and that they receive this support in a timely manner.  

In recent months, the President has announced a series of new initiatives to help veterans.  At the end of 2011, the President signed into law the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which provides firms that hire unemployed veterans with a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit, which offers firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities with a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran.  The President also announced a series of initiatives designed to give veterans additional career development support, including the Veteran Gold Card, which entitles veterans to six months of personalized case management, assessments and counseling, as well as the Veterans Job Bank, a tool to help veterans find job postings from companies looking to hire them.

In last week’s State of the Union address, the President proposed the creation of a Veterans Job Corps, which would help veterans find jobs as police officers or fire fighters.  And just this week, the First Lady, Secretary Shinseki, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced new rules that would make it easier for military families to take time off from their jobs to care for wounded service members.  

In the State of the Union address, the President made clear that supporting our veterans ensures that “America is as strong as those who have defended her.”  At the White House Initiative on AAPIs, we embrace this shared commitment, and will continue to ensure that AAPIs—including our brave and honorable AAPI service members and veterans—play an important role in an America “Built to Last”.

Chris Lu is Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary and serves as Co-chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisLu44.