Hiring veterans is right, and it's smart. They give our country more than we can ever repay, and they develop valuable skills along the way. To help keep veterans engaged in public service, President Obama created the Veterans Employment Initiative for the Federal government last November.
We just reported our first results, and the news is very good: we hired more than 32,800 veterans into Federal jobs in just six months this fiscal year. That's 2,600 more than in the same period last year.
Our motto is that America's VET is Valued, Experienced, and Trained. We set out to match the skills developed in the military with the critical needs of Federal agencies - everything from law enforcement officers to medical professionals. And we got the whole government involved. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis stepped up to co-chair the President's Council on Veterans Employment. As Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), I am the COO, and the cabinet departments and other agencies are members of the Council. The Agriculture, Interior, Justice, and Treasury Departments have shown particularly strong results.
The initial numbers are very good, but we're just getting started. At yesterday's Council meeting, we set new goals for hiring more veterans, including hiring disabled veterans. The unemployment rate for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is unacceptable, and we're doing something about it. We're also getting top-notch civil servants at the same time. Additionally, as part of the White House Interagency Policy Committee on Military Families, OPM and the Department of Labor are working to increase employment of military spouses and strengthen military families.
This is personal for me. My father enlisted in the Marine Corps before Pearl Harbor and served with the first Division at Guadalcanal. My uncle for whom I am named was a Marine pilot, killed in battle in the Pacific. I honor their memories by serving today's veterans.
John Berry is the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management