Remarks Prepared for Delivery by U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao For America’s Heroes at Work Launch

August 20, 2008

Thank you, Neil [Romano, Assistant Secretary for ODEP].

Let me also recognize Assistant Secretary Chick Ciccolella.  Both of them are playing leadership roles in implementing this major project.

And let me thank our valued federal partners from the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Education, the Social Security Administration, the Small Business Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.
I’m delighted to be here today to announce the launch of an important new Department of Labor initiative called America’s Heroes at Work.

America’s Heroes at Work focuses on the unique employment challenges of returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan who are living with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This path-breaking project has a very important purpose: to help these transitioning veterans succeed in the workplace.

Surveys of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have shown that a number of them are suffering from depression or stress disorders.  And, that a number of veterans may have experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury.  These injuries are also experienced by our heroes here at home—our police, fire fighters, and other first responders.

These injuries and conditions can lead to many physical challenges, including vertigo, balance problems, anxiety, and sleep disturbance.  And they can cause cognitive issues including short-term memory deficits, poor concentration, and decision-making difficulties.

As our brave service men and women transition back into civilian life, we know that injuries and conditions of these kinds can create barriers to success in the workplace.  But we also know that putting workplace supports into action can help these individuals succeed in their jobs, and that employmentcan play a major role in their recovery.

Employers understand this and they want to help.  And we are here to help by providing employers with the support and education they needto help returning service members with these particular injuries succeed in the workplace.

And that’s what America’s Heroes at Workis all about.  We’ve launched a comprehensive website — — that educates employers, HR professionals, and the workforce development system on accommodations they can make for workers with Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders.  The website is a portal to a wide range of free resources, from fact sheets and reference guides, to training tools, to real-life success stories. is just one part of the Department’s ongoing outreach campaign to help raise awareness about Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, and show how men and women coping with these challenges can make a successful transition to the workplace.  Whether workers are veterans, first-responders or those recovering from the effects of a head injury — they and the employer will benefit from this information.

America’s Heroes at Work will also help dispel some of the myths related to people with these injuries and challenges.  We want employers to know that 80 percent of Traumatic Brain Injuries are mild concussions that will heal fully.  And, that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is nothing an employer should fear.  Veterans, including those with disabilities, make exceptional workers who will bring bottom-line benefits to our nation’s employers.

What’s been so inspiring to us at the Labor Department has been the outpouring of support we’ve received from our fellow federal agencies on this project.  At the outset of the initiative, we wanted to ensure that our project complemented other programs already in existence for these veterans — and we succeeded.  So America’s Heroes at Work is a truly collaborative initiative and a model of interagency cooperation at its finest.

Soon you’ll be hearing from some of our federal partners, from the employer and veterans’ communities, and from some success stories.  But first, we’re going to play a short video program to introduce you to the website  And then, following our speakers, we’ll be pleased to take your questions about the project.

Thank you again for being here today.  Our men and women in uniform were there for us.  So it’s our turn to be here for them.  It’s a deep honor and a privilege to serve them in any way we can.  And one of the best ways we can help these courageous men and women and respect their sacrifice is to help them return to full, productive lives through work.  The America’s Heroes at Work initiative can help fulfill this promise.
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