Joining Forces Blog

  • 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 before open enrollment ends on March 31. At 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.

  • VA Health Care, the Affordable Care Act and You!

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

    On Friday, March 14, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services and our community partners, VA is hosting a Google+ Hangout and information session to provide uninsured Veterans, their family members, caregivers and advocates information about health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act.

    Join us at noon ET on the Google+ event page – or on the VA website to learn more about what the Affordable Care Act means to Veterans and family members.

  • First Lady Screens Disney’s "Muppets Most Wanted" for Military Families

    First Lady, General Dempsey, and Kermit the Frog

    First Lady Michelle Obama, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Kermit the Frog deliver remarks to military children and families prior to a Joining Forces movie screening of Disney’s "Muppets Most Wanted," in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, March 12, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    Yesterday at the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, and Kermit the Frog hosted military children and families from different organizations to view an advance screening of Disney’s "Muppets Most Wanted." Before the film screening, the First Lady spoke to the military children and families in attendance and shared how important military families’ service is to this country. On the subject of military children, the First Lady stated:

    I get to travel all around the country and I meet a lot of kids. And let me tell you, I am most impressed by our military kids, because I know you guys have a lot on your plates. When your parents are deployed, you have to be big boys and girls. You have to get your homework done. You have to stay out of trouble. You have to help out with your brothers and sisters, right? You have to behave. You have to be strong and brave.

    At the end of the remarks, Kermit was presented a military challenge coin by General Dempsey, who stated:

    I would like to take this opportunity to make a special presentation to Kermit, because of what Kermit has done for all of [our military families]. I’d like to give Kermit, as the senior Muppet, a coin from the senior military officer.

    Kermit was honored to receive this coin and saluted the crowd.

    The First Lady and Joining Forces are pleased to host military families as a way to show we all recognize and deeply appreciate their service. To learn more about how to get involved with military families, veterans, and service members, please visit

    Rory Brosius is the Deputy Director for Joining Forces.

  • Covering Veterans Retraining Assistance Program Participants through June

    Three years ago, the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act of 2011 created the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) that has helped many unemployed veterans access educational programs. This program came at a crucial time when veteran unemployment was at 8.3%.  VRAP was specifically designed to cover veterans who are not eligible to receive GI Bill educational benefits.

    VRAP has helped qualified veterans who are 35 to 60 years old obtain up to 12 months of education benefits equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill.  Since the program’s launch, it has come to support more than more than 76,000 unemployed veterans and helped our Nation honor the sacrifices they made to their country.  

    Under the current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) authority to issue payments to VRAP participants will end March 31, 2014 – in the middle of the Veterans’ spring academic semester. Concerned that funds would be cut off before VRAP participants could complete their academic semesters, President Obama asked VA to explore all available options to ensure that eligible veterans are able to finish their Spring 2014 semester.  

  • Sesame Workshop for Military Families

    Ed. note: This is part of a series of blogs about wellness issues for Military Families, Veterans, and Service members. Check back for more Wellness Wednesday blogs, where we will cover topics relevant to the holistic health of the military and veteran communities.

    In my work, it never ceases to amaze me how military families are able to navigate the variety of challenges that military life presents. Helping children learn skills to cope with frequent moves and separations due to deployments, to handle difficult encounters with peers, and to clear other emotional hurdles are only a few of the strains on military parents.

    The Department of Defense and Military OneSource understand what military families face and as a result offer quality, no-cost, multimedia resources from Sesame Workshop. These resources can help military parents and children talk openly about common, everyday challenges, and teach children skills to guide them through a variety of both big and small life obstacles.

    Sesame Workshop products bring critical educational, emotional, social, and health and wellness lessons to children in an approachable way — through the use of the popular Sesame Street characters. The products, available on Military OneSource, include “Talk, Listen, Connect,” a series for children of deployed parents; “Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce,” for children whose parents are going through a divorce; “When Families Grieve,” a tool kit for children who have lost a loved one; and the latest product, “Little Children, Big Challenges: Resilience.”

    I am happy to announce that the most recent release in this series contains a book and DVD designed to help children ages 2 to 5 build important resilience and perseverance skills that will allow them to overcome challenges large and small. The multimedia tool kit is designed to boost children’s self-esteem, help them develop problem-solving and conflict resolution skills, and encourage them to express their feelings in positive ways.

  • Spotlight on Troops to Teachers: Jorge Pulleiro

    Jorge Pulliero teaching

    During Jorge Pulleiro’s tenure as a middle school teacher, he has received several prestigious awards, including the Loretta Wollet Award (2008) for outstanding teaching at the K-12 level, the Toyota International Education Award (2008) and the Fulbright Classroom Teacher Exchange award to Universidad Popular de la Chontalpa, Tabasco, Mexico (2011). (Photos courtesy of Jorge Pulleiro)

    We all had teachers who influenced us and helped make us the adults we are today. In 2014, we will be honoring teachers who are having a lasting impact on their students each and every day, and who have also had a lasting impact on our nation – because these teachers are veterans who have chosen to begin a new career in the classroom after serving in the armed forces. 

    Our schools across the United States are benefiting from these former service members who are proud to serve their country again as teachers. They bring their unique talents into classrooms and are influencing a new generation of students. The White House and the Department of Defense, through the Troops to Teachers program, are joining forces to bring veterans' unique talents to public schools. Veterans offer unmatched skills, experience, and dedication to the schools and students they now serve.

    Our first spotlight is Troops to Teachers participant Jorge Pulleiro, a Spanish teacher at Wood River Middle School in Hailey, Idaho. Prior to becoming a middle school Spanish teacher, Mr. Pulleiro served in the United States Army for six years. His Army career took him from North Carolina to Heidelberg, Germany, and points in between. He served as a rear detachment commander for the Army in Germany; a protocol officer and escort for distinguished visitors; and as a team member of the casualty assistance center, where he was involved in the important and somber work of casualty incidents, family notification, casualty assistance, mortuary services and burial honors.