Tag Archives: Joining Forces

5 Years of Joining Forces: A Progress Report and Call to Action to Support Military, Veterans and their Families

Veterans salute flag during Memorial Day event in North Hempstead, Long Island, NY.  In five years, Joining Forces, a signature issue for First Lady Michelle Obama, has led to the hiring or training of more than 1.4 million veterans and military spouses, ended veteran homelessness in states across the country, and provided 60,000 military-connected students with support and educational opportunities © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Veterans salute flag during Memorial Day event in North Hempstead, Long Island, NY. In five years, Joining Forces, a signature issue for First Lady Michelle Obama, has led to the hiring or training of more than 1.4 million veterans and military spouses, ended veteran homelessness in states across the country, and provided 60,000 military-connected students with support and educational opportunities © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Since April 2011, Joining Forces, a signature initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, has led to the hiring or training of more than 1.4 million veterans and military spouses, ended veteran homelessness in states across the country, and provided 60,000 military-connected students with support and educational opportunities. On the final Veterans Day of the Obama Administration, the White House offered a progress report:

Joining Forces is a nationwide initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden in April 2011 to call upon all Americans to support service members, veterans, and their families through wellness, education, and employment opportunities. Joining Forces works to inspire, educate and encourage action from both the public and private sectors to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.

The last Veteran’s Day of this Administration provides an opportunity to celebrate the progress Joining Forces has made in bringing attention to the unique strengths and needs of America’s military families, while highlighting their skills, experience and dedication—encouraging greater connections between the American public and the military that will continue into the future. 

Employment

Since the launch of Joining Forces, the unemployment rate for our 9/11 generation of veterans has been reduced from more than 12 percent to lower than the national average today. Employers ranging from smaller start-ups to some of the largest corporations in the world have hired or trained more than 1.5 million veterans and military spouses. In May 2016, the First Lady announced commitments to hire and train 170,000 new veteran and military spouse in high-growth sectors, including aerospace, telecommunications and technology. In addition, 15 companies and organizations have committed to lead training programs, sponsor scholarships, and support certification courses for more than 60,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years.

In addition, the creation of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, a network that now includes more than 335 companies, has led to the hiring of 100,000 military spouses through postings on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Career Portal and mentoring of military spouses. The Partnership also provides employment data on military spouses hired.

Joining Forces also issued a call to action to all 50 U.S. governors to take executive and/or legislative action to streamline state licensing for the military community, and today, all 50 states have taken action to support the military community by making it easier for military spouses to overcome barriers to employment. In collaboration with state legislators and regulators, Joining Forces and the U.S. Department of Defense have helped states adopt simple measures to accommodate the demands of the military and support military spouses as they seek to continue their careers. 

Education

Since 2011, more than 100 colleges and universities have signed the “Educate the Educators” commitment, which prepares educators to lead classrooms and develop cultures that are more responsive to the social, emotional, and academic needs of military-connected children. In addition, all 50 states have signed on to the Military Child Education Compact, which focuses on the inequities facing school children of military parents when they are required to relocate across state lines.

In April 2014, Dr. Biden helped launch the VA GI Bill Comparison Tool, a website that allows service members and dependents using the GI Bill to research tuition and fees, housing allowances and book stipends, as well as graduation rates and loan default rates for each school so that they may make an informed decision on next steps.

In April of 2016, the National Math and Science Initiative’s (NMSI) College Readiness Program fulfilled a commitment made during the launch of Joining Forces in 2011 to expand into 200 military-connected schools, providing more than 60,000 military-connected students with the support and educational opportunities they deserve.Through its College Readiness Program, NMSI is broadening access to rigorous AP coursework in math, science, and English and equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need to graduate from high school ready for college and the STEM-intensive careers of the 21st century.

Wellness

To call upon cities, counties and states to commit to ending and preventing homelessness among veterans in their communities, the First Lady issued The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness in June 2014. As a result, 35 communities and the states of Connecticut and Virginia have effectively ended veteran homelessness.

The First Lady also launched the Campaign to Change Direction in March 2015—a nationwide mental health public awareness campaign to promote education and awareness of mental health issues affecting the military community. The Change Direction initiative is a collection of concerned citizens, nonprofit leaders, and leaders from the private sector who have come together to change America’s perception of mental health, mental illness, and wellness. More than 230 partner organizations have joined the campaign.

In addition, more than 100 Association of American Medical College (AAMC)-member medical schools across the country signed a pledge recognizing the sacrifice and commitment of current and returning military service members. AAMC and the Center for Deployment Psychology now produce Joining Forces Wellness Week, a week-long series of interactive trainings for clinical and non-clinical wellness professionals focused on specific health and wellness issues of veterans, service members, and their families.

Memorial Day Spotlights Trump, Clinton Differences on Veterans, Military Families

Veterans march in the Great Neck Memorial Day Parade. Trump and Clinton offer starkly different proposals for how America should care for veterans and military families © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Veterans march in the Great Neck Memorial Day Parade. Trump and Clinton offer starkly different proposals for how America should care for veterans and military families © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

There is nothing more disgusting than the scene of Donald Trump headlining the Rolling Thunder rally in Washington DC over Memorial Day weekend– a rally that ostensibly supports veterans. A man who used his wealth and position to obtain five deferments from serving in Vietnam when so many others without privilege were sent into that hell hole- 2.7 million served in that terrible war,  58,000 never returning home, another 75,000 severely disabled. In all, some 42 million Americans have served in the military since the American Revolution, more than 1.1 million making the ultimate sacrifice.

This is a man who has shown nothing but disrespect for the military and veterans, even as he fear-mongers the lie that the American military is weak and, he crows, we need Trump to restore its greatness. To the extent that defense spending – still the biggest chunk of the budget, amounting to more than the rest of the world spends on its military – has been cut, it is because of the Sequester that was put into place because Republicans in Congress refused to accept Obama’s budget compromise. Trump’s fight is with Congress, not Obama, but that does not stop him (or his supporters) from misdirecting the blame.

In fact, Obama has done more for veterans – and the military and their families – than any other president, including passing the post 9/11 GI Bill, Michele Obama and Jill Biden’s Joining Forces campaign, an all-out drive to improve employment opportunities for veterans and military families, improving services at the Veterans Administration hospitals.

This week, with great fanfare, Trump held a press conference to explain where the $6 million he claimed to have raised for veterans groups in a fundraiser (his excuse for skipping out on a GOP presidential debate), was allocated, including, he said, $1 million of his own money.

He tried to weasel out of paying up – only being forced by media attention.

Let’s consider Trump’s actual record (something that his minions fail to do):

He has indicated he would not support the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which the VA has said has benefited more than 700,000 veterans and their family members who have so far received $20 billion in benefits, saying : “No. I want to bring jobs back to our country.”

He has advocated privatizing the VA when the vast majority of veterans appreciate the specialized services they obtain.

He showed contempt for prisoners of war, as when he dissed Sen. John McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam (refusing the opportunity to be freed until his men also were freed), saying, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, ok? I hate to tell you.”

Who does Trump consider a war hero? Trump, as when he referred to his sex life and the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases as his “personal Vietnam,” and that though he never actually served in the military, he wrote that he “always felt that I was in the military” because he was sent to a military-themed boarding school. And last year, he downplayed the dangers of war with modern technology, claiming that if an armored Humvee is hit with an explosive, our soldiers just “go for a little ride upward and they come down.” He also has called for expanding the use of torture, which would put US servicemembers at severe risk.

While Trump thinks he can buy veterans’ affection by throwing a few million dollars in their direction, in contrast, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate who as Senator served on the Armed Services Committee, has an actual record of supporting the military, veterans, and military families and has shown time and time again that she understands their needs.

  • Joined efforts to build veterans rehabilitation center. Senator Clinton joined with Republican Senator John McCain to personally raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund which led to building the Center for the Intrepid, a $50 million state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility in San Antonio, Texas, designed specifically to help seriously wounded service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Expanded health care coverage for Reservists and National Guard members. Senator Clinton worked with Senator Lindsey Graham to expand veterans’ access to military health insurance, ensuring that all members of the Reserves and National Guard—and their families—had access to military health benefits even when they were not deployed.
  • Protected family members caring for wounded warriors. Senator Clinton collaborated with Senator Chris Dodd to author and introduce new legislation that aimed to broaden protections afforded by the Family and Medical Leave Act to the family of wounded service members. The legislation was enacted as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.

[You can read the full, 12-page veterans plan and her new, expanded agenda to support military families.]

On Tuesday, as Trump was holding his mock press conference listing where $6 million in contributions for veterans were allocated and spending more time bashing Clinton and the press, Hillary Clinton released wide-ranging set of proposals to better support military families:

  • Ensuring that family leave policies meet the needs of our military families and increasing access to child care for all service members in the Active Duty and Reserve who need it, both on- and off-base.
  • Enhancing opportunities for military spouse employment and breaking down antiquated rules, such as onerous state credentialing, that lead to military spouse under-employment. A recent study showed that unemployment and under-employment of military spouses costs the U.S. economy almost $1 billion per year.
  • Creating flexibility around military moves by allowing families to continue receiving their housing allowance for up to six months after a military member’s Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move under common-sense circumstances.
  • Standing side-by-side with families through transition out of the military, making jobs services and transition programs more widely available to loved ones during the months and years after a service member leaves the service.
  • Establish “Joining Forces,” launched by the Obama administration, as a permanent part of the Executive Office of the President, to continue building partnerships between the public, private and nonprofit sectors in support of the military and veteran community.
  • Ensuring military children receive a high-quality education and the resources to succeed. This includes preserving and protecting the Post-9/11 GI Bill, making it a lasting part of the nation’s social contract for those who serve and their families, including its provisions for transfer of educational benefits to spouses and children of military personnel.

You can read the full fact sheet for Hillary Clinton’s military families agenda.