Good morning and welcome, everyone! This is the time of year we pay tribute to our public servants and recognize your many contributions at every level of government. Celebrating public service is one of my favorite things to do, so I am delighted to be here this morning.
Last year we celebrated some of our most experienced colleagues. This year we are saluting the future of VA. So I want to extend a particularly warm welcome to our special guest colleagues, who although they have five or less years of public service, have already made important contributions to our mission.
Lindsay Bowden is on the core team of the Secretary’s Initiative to Improve Veterans Mental Health. In that role she has helped maintain seamless communication among stakeholders in six time zones and has helped identify new processes and ways to improve efficiency in the Office of Mental Health Services.
Allison Calabro is the primary lead for VBA on eliminating homelessness among Veterans. She represents VBA at meetings of the Interagency Council on Homelessness and leads a group of colleagues to identify and create solutions to advance the mission of ending Veteran homelessness. This includes new ways to ensure that homeless Veterans and those at risk understand how to submit claims for benefits and services.
Andre Castillo served as the strategic organizer and co-chair of VA’s Task Force on Multi-Generational Recruitment and Retention, under the direction of Assistant Secretary Sepulveda. Andre led the design of its structure, goals, and scope. His work has laid a foundation for the Assistant Secretary’s ongoing efforts in this area.
Kristan Higgins is the creative force behind VA’s Green Routine, which promotes environmental awareness throughout VA. She established an awards program that recognizes employees whose efforts have encouraged or instilled sustainable practices in their workplace.
Aurelia Lopez played an important role as VA’s liaison with DOD to support a Workforce Recruitment Program Summer Awards and Recognition Ceremony. She oversaw all aspects of planning and ensured smooth operations regarding VA’s support for the event. She also co-led VA’s participation in the Office of Personnel Management’s Puerto Rico hiring event.
Each one of you is an inspiration to all of us—doing such great work so early in your careers. On behalf of Secretary Shinseki, thank you for your service. We hope you will have many more years of government service here at VA. I would like to present each of you with a small token of my appreciation. Please join me in congratulating our colleagues!
As we gather here today, men and women in public service are providing important functions all across the country. Here at VA, we’re blessed with a clear and noble mission—to care for Veterans.
Because of the employees who come here to work each day, Veterans and their families are pursuing education, courtesy of the GI Bill. Injured Veterans are finding jobs through Vocational Rehabilitation. Deserving Veterans are buying their first home with VA home loans.
Men and women who once wore our Nation’s uniform are receiving top-notch healthcare. Our employees mark the passing of each Veteran with dignity and respect in a system of national cemeteries that they lovingly maintain.
The work we all do is second to none. The latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine featured a VA initiative that reduced the incidence of MRSA infections—a global health issue—by more than 60 percent in intensive care units across the country, setting a new standard.
Our Consolidated Mail Order Pharmacy, or CMOP, filled nearly 107 million prescriptions last year and does such a good job that J.D. Power and Associates recently recognized them as one of their 2011 Customer Service Champions. J.D. Power evaluated over 800 brands and CMOP rose to the top as one of only 40 entities in the United States to earn that distinction this year. CMOP’s competition included some of the highest-performing companies that deliver service excellence to U.S. customers.
For the fourth consecutive time in 10 years, NCA has received a top rating of 94 out of 100, besting the Nation’s top corporations in the prestigious American Customer Satisfaction Index, the only cross-industry measure of satisfaction with the quality and goods of services available in the United States. That means that NCA beat out companies like Nike, Apple, and Mercedes Benz!
At VA, what we do is so much more than a just a job. Our dedicated public servants know that caring for Veterans is a sacred trust. President Obama joined us in this very room a few years ago as we celebrated 20 years as a cabinet-level agency. Speaking of our obligation to Veterans, he said, “that when our fellow citizens commit themselves to shed blood for us, that binds our fates with theirs in a way that nothing else can. And in the end, caring for those who have given their fullest measure of devotion to us—and for their families—is a matter of honor, as a Nation and as a people.”
It is an honor and one that requires a lot of people to achieve the mission—over 300,000 of us! To learn more about the work of your colleagues, I encourage you to visit the exhibit set up in C-7, which includes displays from every part of the Department. You will be inspired. Thank you for your service. I am grateful to be serving alongside you.