Having the world's biggest retailer take on one of the biggest challenges facing veterans and their families -- unemployment -- will undoubtedly help end this national crisis. Hiring 100,000 over five years: It's a big bold initiative from an iconic American brand.
Part of this effort, and every veterans jobs initiative, should address perhaps the most difficult part of the veterans' unemployment challenge -- a disabled veterans unemployment rate that has been estimated to be three to eight times higher than the national unemployment rate.
The truth is all employers, big and small, can play a meaningful role in helping veterans with disabilities find good competitive careers. And like Walmart, Paralyzed Veterans of America is taking the lead to bring hardworking veterans and great companies together.
A few years ago, to help hard-to-place veterans secure good jobs, we created PAVE, Paving Access for Veterans Employment. This unique public-private partnership involves all sectors in finding sustainable solutions to veterans' unemployment. Our growing national network of PAVE career counselors connect directly with injured veterans and empower them with the tools they need to secure good careers. At the same time, we directly engage employers and educate them about the benefits of hiring veterans with disabilities. We also dispel any myths there may be about the cost of adapting workplaces for workers who use wheelchairs.
The PAVE program is currently working with more than 1,600 clients and this number is growing every day. To date, the program has helped set hundreds of hard-to-place veterans on a path of economic self-sufficiency, and partnered with more than 450 employers including well-known brands such as Walgreens, Best Buy and Microsoft.
My message to employers is clear: please take a minute out of your busy days. Look around you. If you have no veterans with disabilities working for you then that's a problem -- but it's a problem we can solve together.
We stand ready to help you unleash the great potential that veterans with disabilities can bring to your workforce -- and to help provide a mission-ready program, PAVE, that you can access.
To be sure, hiring more veterans is not just the right thing to do for big employers such as Walmart; it's good for employers of all sizes and great for the country we all love.