Joining Forces Blog

  • Post-9/11 GI Bill Beneficiaries: Estimate Your Education Benefits in Just a Few Clicks

    Three years ago this month, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces, a national initiative to support America’s service members and military families – before, during and after deployment.

    One of the best ways we can support those who serve is by providing them with tools and resources to help them pursue an education or find a good-paying job. We know that veterans make some of the very best students and employees;  they bring the same determination and focus to their studies and their jobs that they brought to serving our country.

    As more than one million service members transition back to civilian life over the next five years, many of them will pursue their education by using the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits they have earned.

    That’s why resources like the VA’s GI Bill® Comparison Tool are so important. Veterans, service members, survivors, and eligible dependents can quickly and easily calculate their GI Bill benefits at more than 10,000 approved schools and job training programs.

  • Joining Forces Third Anniversary

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Military Spouse magazine. See the original post here.

    On June 7, 2012, Linda Mills received a phone call that changed her life forever: Linda’s husband, Army Staff Sergeant Andrew Mills, had been seriously injured when an IED exploded in Afghanistan. 

    Almost immediately, Linda quit her job to become Andrew’s full-time caregiver.  In the weeks and months after the explosion, Andrew underwent more than 30 surgeries.  The two of them moved from North Carolina to Virginia, so that Andrew can rehab at a state-of-the-art military hospital.  And every single day, Linda has stood by her husband’s side, helping with physical therapy, assisting with daily personal care, and managing the family’s legal and financial responsibilities. 

    Today, after two years in her new role as a caregiver, Linda considers herself not just a military spouse, but a nurse, an advocate, a scheduler, and a coach. And as she often says, even a tragedy can lead to a new beginning – in a few weeks’ time, she and Andrew will welcome their first child into the world. 

  • President Obama Speaks at Fort Hood Memorial Service

    Yesterday, President Obama spoke at Fort Hood Military Base in Killeen, Texas to share his condolences after last week's tragic shooting at the base where Sergeant first Class Daniel Ferguson, Staff Sergeant Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, and Sergeant Timothy Owens lost their lives.

    "It was love for country that inspired these three Americans to put on the uniform and join the greatest Army that the world has ever known," President Obama said. "They lived those shining values -- loyalty, duty, honor -- that keep us strong and free."

    During his remarks at the memorial, the President explained that we must honor their lives "not in word or talk, but in deed and in truth."

    We must honor these men with a renewed commitment to keep our troops safe, not just in battle but on the home front, as well. In our open society, and at vast bases like this, we can never eliminate every risk. But as a nation, we can do more to help counsel those with mental health issues, to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are having such deep difficulties. As a military, we must continue to do everything in our power to secure our facilities and spare others this pain.

  • Veteran Paralympians Honored at Best of U.S. Awards, White House

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on Department of Veteran's Affairs VAntage Point blog. See the original post here.

    Eighteen Veterans and active duty Servicemembers participated in the recent Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia on Team USA. Those distinguishing themselves received awards at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C., this week at the Best of U.S. Awards.

    The following day, all of the athletes from the U.S. Paralympic and Olympic teams were invited to the White House.  VA News was able to talk to several of the Veteran athletes about their Paralympic experience and the challenges they’ve overcome as disabled Veterans.

  • Joining Forces Joins Georgetown University for a Forum on Veterans in Our Communities

    I was fortunate to participate in a recent veterans forum, “From Nation-Building to Community-Building: Capitalizing on the Strength of Our Veterans Here at Home,” hosted by Georgetown University’s Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership in the McCourt School of Public Policy.

    This forum brought together a panel of national and local leaders, veterans, and civilians, to discuss efforts underway across communities and sectors to reintegrate and engage veterans. Moreover, our transitioning service members are joined by their families and bring the same considerable talents to any employer or community.

    Panelists from Blue Star Families, Hiring Our Heroes, the Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors, and the Augusta Warrior Project shared their distinct perspectives on the contributions our veterans make to our society and what we as a country can continue to do to support their reintegration.

    This discussion could not be more timely, as combat operations transition in Afghanistan and our military adjusts its force structure to meet different threats. And as a consequence, increasing numbers of talented veterans and their families are returning to their hometowns across the nation to apply the considerable skills, creativity, and leadership that veterans and their families bring back to our communities.

    At Joining Forces, we see the national impact and benefit of collaboration. This type of momentum is only made stronger by conversation and action on best paths forward to support these veterans into our communities.

    We applaud the efforts of organizations like those convened by Georgetown that make a difference. Last Friday’s forum helps each of us gain a deeper understanding of the valuable skills and perspectives that our veterans and their families bring to every doorstep in America.

    Colonel Rich Morales is the Executive Director for Joining Forces.

  • The First Lady Encourages Military Families to Get Covered

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the White House Blog. See the original post here.

    Today, as part of the Department of Veterans Affairs Google+ Hangout to provide uninsured veterans, their family members, caregivers, and advocates information about health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act, First Lady Michelle Obama encouraged uninsured veterans who are not eligible for coverage by the VA and their families to sign up for health care in advance of the March 31 deadline.

    "The deadline for signing up is March 31st. So talk to your friends, your family, your neighbors … send them to the website right now, and keep on them until they sign up. Because all Americans deserve the security of knowing that you’ll have health care when you need it – especially families like yours who have already given so much to this country," said the First Lady.

    The Affordable Care Act helps honor our commitment to veterans by strengthening affordable health care options for their families. "The last thing our veteran families need is the stress of worrying that one accident or illness could mean losing everything you’ve worked so hard for," said the First Lady. "But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, that weight is being lifted."

    If you don't already have health insurance, as of today, there are just 17 days left to enroll in health care coverage at HealthCare.gov before open enrollment ends on March 31. At HealthCare.gov you can compare your options based on price, benefits, quality, and other features, and enroll in a plan that fits your needs and your budget.

    Kasie Coccaro is Associate Director of Online Outreach for the White House Office of Digital Strategy.